This is a recipe for the best instant pot pulled pork. It is easy to make and delicious to eat and comes out so tender, juicy, and yummy in only 2 hours. It can be served on a plate with some veggies and salads or on a roll for a delicious sandwich.
For years, Stephanie has cooked her pulled pork in a crock pot, and it has always come out so soft and tender. However, since we own an instant pot and have had great success in making other things in it, we figured “why not give it a try”, but this time for pulled pork.
We were so happy with the way that it came out, still so soft and tender just like the slow cooker but in a lot less time.
If you have tried our crock pot pulled pork recipe, then you will absolutely love this one.
Why Make Pulled Pork in an Instant Pot?
Because of the pressure, food cooks quickly in an instant pot, which comes in very handy when you are short on time. Using an instant pot you can make a tender and delicious dinner in a short period of time.
It reminds me of a pressure cooker that was in so many kitchens when I was growing up. My mother had one too and I was always afraid of it.
The pot was noisy, the top jiggled as it was releasing steam and my mother always told me that if you didn’t use it properly it could build up enough pressure to blow off the top. When I got married I never wanted one, because I was scared to use it.
It’s different with the instant pot, which I’m happy to say I enjoy cooking with it. The meat that we cook in it always comes out so tender and juicy and it’s a pleasure to use and so much easier to cook with.
Pulled Pork in Instant Pot vs. Slow Cooker
Both the instant pot and slow cooker are good tools for making great pulled pork. Here are some of the details for each cooking method:
You can sear the pork butt in the pot itself as the first step in making instant pot pulled pork.
It only takes a small amount of liquid to assure a juicy piece of instant pot pork.
Because the meat cooks under a lot of pressure it achieves that tender and juicy texture in a lot less time than it takes to cook in the crock pot.
The instant pot lives up to its name….it cooks food in a lot less time than by other means, which is good when you do not have hours to cook dinner.
Not everyone has an instant pot in their home, but my recommendation is to buy yourself one because there are so many yummy things that can be made in it besides instant pot shredded pork.
Slow Cooker/Crock Pot:
The meat does not need to be seared before adding it to the crock pot, which is one less step to do.
You can cook the pulled pork on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. The slower you cook it and the lower the temperature you use, the more tender the meat will be.
The slow cooker is good because once you do the initial prep work, it cooks all on its own while you are at work or at home doing other things. You don’t have to stand over it and watch it. Just set the timer and it will even turn itself to warm or off until you are ready to eat.
The crock pot has found a place in many homes over the years.
What Ingredients are in Instant Pot Pulled Pork?
Pork Butt – This is the cut of pork that we use for our BBQ pulled pork in an instant pot because it has fat running through it, which makes the meat more tender and easy to shred. Another name for this pork is Boston Butt.
Brown Sugar – This is used in a small portion as a sweetener which makes the pork butt taste a slight bit sweet. If you are watching your carbs then use the Swerve brown which is a zero net carb sweetener.
Salt – This is used to tenderize and enhance the flavor of the instant pot BBQ pulled pork.
Garlic Powder – Who doesn’t love garlic. It adds so much flavor to things.
Onion Powder – Another good flavor for meats.
Pepper – Black pepper is the most common, which gives just enough kick to the instant pot pork butt. If you like it really spicy then add some crushed red pepper too.
Cumin – This is ever so small portion used in meat recipes, especially Mexican foods.
Paprika – You can use either regular paprika or the smoked version for a smokey taste.
Water – Just a small amount of water works well in an instant pot to create moisture that helps the meat stay tender and juicy.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Braggs is the best brand to use, if possible.
Liquid Smoke – This is a liquid that takes on the smokey flavor as if you cooked the meat outside in a wood smoker.
BBQ Sauce (optional) – If you are going to use the sauce, then you mix it into the meat when it is all done cooking. If you are watching your carbs then take a look at our keto BBQ Sauce recipe which only has 2.5 net carbs for 2 Tbsp. Instant pot pork butt is also very yummy without any sauce.
Different Variations of This Recipe
Instant pot shredded pork is very versatile and there are a few variations that will change up the taste a little bit.
No Sauce Pulled Pork – Just seasoned meat without any BBQ sauce.
Carolina Pulled Pork – Made with vinegar sauce and crushed red pepper for an extra kick.
Pulled Pork Carnitas – Made with a sweet or tart citrus fruit juice such as orange or lime, along with garlic and onions.
In our instant pot pulled pork recipe we used some basic spices:
Paprika: We used regular paprika but you could also use smoked paprika instead if you like a more smokey taste.
Cayenne Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper, Chili powder: All good choices if you are looking to add a kick to your instant pot pork.
What Cut of Meat for Pulled Pork?
The best cuts of meat for pulled pork in the instant pot are PorkButt/Boston Butt and Pork Shoulder. They are both similar to each other and are from the same part of the pig.
They are not lean cuts of meat that get tougher as they cook too long, but instead are a more fatty cut which is just what you need for pulled pork.
When the meat cooks down over a long period of time, like in a slow cooker, or under pressure from the instant pot, it gets more tender because of the fat.
Can I Use Frozen Pork?
If you buy a piece of pork butt and you are not going to cook it right away, then freeze it. You can then easily use frozen pork to make pulled pork.
The nice thing when cooking it in an instant pot is that you do not have to thaw it out before cooking it which is great when you forget to take something out of the freezer for dinner.
Plus when the pork butt is frozen you can skip the searing step.
Instant Pot Pulled Pork Cooking Time
It doesn’t take too long to cook pulled pork in an instant pot but it’s important to know the cooking time. A good guide that we go by when making this recipe is to cook it about 20 minutes per pound.
However, it’s not only the cooking time that is to be taken into consideration. There is searing time, which is about 10 minutes and time to release the pressure, which is about 15 minutes.
What Kind of Pressure Release to Use for Instant Pot Pulled Pork?
In our recipe we have allowed for 15 minutes to release the pressure from the instant pot after the cooking time has finished. That’s what we have found works very well everytime we make pulled pork.
How to Make Instant Pot Pulled Pork
Making Instant Pot Pork recipe is so easy….follow our simple instructions below:
STEP 1: In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and paprika.
STEP 2: Cut the pork butt into 4 equal-sized pieces. This is going to make it easier to sear it, and it will fit in the IP much better. Don’t skip this step!
STEP 3: Season all sides of the pork with spices.
STEP 4: Make sure the stainless steel insert is in your Instant Pot. Press the “saute” function. Wait for 2 to 3 minutes and add oil to the insert.
STEP 5: Add 1-2 pieces of pork at a time, and sear on all sides. Once a piece has been seared on all sides, take it out and place it on a plate. Repeat until all the pieces are done. Then press the “cancel/off” button.
STEP 6: Add the water, apple cider vinegar, and liquid smoke to the IP and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the insert.
STEP 7: Place all the pork back into the IP.
STEP 8: Close the lid, set the valve to “sealing” position, and press the “pressure cooker” button. Set the timer to 90 minutes. The IP will beep and start coming to pressure. It is already hot, so it won’t take too long.
STEP 9: Once the cooking time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes has passed, release any remaining pressure by hitting the vent knob from sealed to venting (be sure to do this in an open space and stand back from the Instant Pot.)
STEP 10: Carefully open the lid away from your face. Place the pork on a plate or in a bowl. Using 2 forks shred the pork, it should be really easy and will shred quickly.
STEP 11: Once the pork is all shredded, add your favorite BBQ sauce and serve.
Should You Brown the Pork Before Putting it in the Instant Pot?
Ok so it’s not a make it or break it matter, but personally, I feel like browning the pork before putting it in the instant pot really bumps up the flavor of the meat. So if you have the time, I say go ahead and do it!
However, if you are adding a completely frozen pork butt, then skip this step. It just doesn’t come out right when it’s frozen.
What Liquid to Use
Liquid in your instant pot is necessary or else things will stick, burn and not be tender or moist.
You have some options here….
We chose to use 1 cup of water, ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 tsp liquid smoke. When pressure cooking in an IP, because you need to have liquid in the pot.
If you don’t want to use water, then use chicken or beef broth or bone broth. That will also bump up the flavor of the pulled pork.
You can leave out the vinegar, or use white vinegar instead.
How to Shred the Pulled Pork
Once the pressure cooker pulled pork is done cooking, then it’s time to shred the meat, which is the fun part.
Just take 2 large forks and stick them in the meat, close by each other and pull the meat apart over and over again until it is all shredded into bite-sized pieces.
If there are any large pieces of fat then feel free to discard them.
NOTE: If the meat does not shred easily, then stick it back into the pot and cook it for another 10 minutes.
Should I Brine Instant Pot Pulled Pork?
Whether or not to brine instant pot BBQ pulled pork is up to you. I feel that if you are cooking it in the instant pot under all of that pressure, then it is not necessary to brine the meat to achieve tenderness. It will naturally become tender during the cooking process.
If you were to cook the pulled pork in the oven, brining it would add to its tenderness that oven-cooked meat will not get on its own.
Here is a quick recipe on how to brine the meat:
½ cup salt
½ cup brown sugar
8 cups cold water
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp of dry rub spice mix
You will need a large bowl to prepare the solution and then add the meat to it.
Place it in your refrigerator overnight.
The next day take it out and be sure to dry it with a paper towel and then proceed with the cooking instructions.
Pulled Pork BBQ Sauce
If you use BBQ sauce on your pulled pork in an instant pot, the first step is to cook the meat, and then when it’s all done, and shredded, then you can mix the sauce in with it.
If you are worried about the sauce being cold right out of the refrigerator making your pulled pork cold, then a trick you can do is to pour your BBQ sauce into a saucepan and warm it up on the stove before pouring it over the meat.
FAQs and Best Tips
Here are the answers to common questions about making instant pot pulled pork and some helpful tips.
Use either pork butt/Boston butt or pork shoulder, both are fattier cuts of pork which is what you need to make tender instant pot pulled pork.
If you choose to use the pork shoulder, ask your butcher if he can cut out the bone which will make it much easier to use in the instant pot.
If you forget to thaw out your roast, no fear, just use it frozen but you will have to skip the step of searing it first. Then increase the cooking time by 40-50 minutes to compensate.
Before cooking, don’t forget to seal the pressure cooker by turning the pressure knob from venting or sealing, or else the pot will not pressurize.
Serve your pulled pork on a toasted hamburger bun, which will keep the roll from getting soggy.
Then put a couple of scoops of homemade coleslaw on top and some extra BBQ sauce on the roll. (Take a look at our recipe for keto coleslaw)
Since we don’t use the leftover liquid in the instant pot, feel free to save it in a container. Use it to pour over your cooked veggies, like broccoli for instance, for extra flavor. Or freeze it and use it in the future in a soup, or stew…etc.
Keep the Pork Moist
The liquid in the instant pot can be poured over the meat to keep it moist until you serve it.
Extra BBQ sauce will keep your meat moist.
What if I Get the Burn Notice?
If you get a burn notice while your pork butt is cooking then it means that you don’t have enough liquid in the bottom of your instant pot. To fix this, add a few more tablespoons of water or broth which should take care of your problem.
Why is My Pork Tough in the Instant Pot?
The reason that your pork butt may be tough is that it did not cook long enough to break down the fibers of the meat. Even though you may be hungry, don’t be in a rush to take your meat out too early or it won’t be as tender as you expect it should be.
The pork will be tough if you use the wrong cut of meat. Pork loin or tenderloin are both considered to be good cuts of meat, but they are the wrong cuts for this recipe.
Because they are too lean, they will never become soft and tender and you won’t be able to shred it because it is lacking fat.
How Many Pounds of Pork Can You Put in an Instant Pot?
When we make instant pot pulled pork we usually use a 4-pound roast, but there is still some space inside which would accommodate a bigger piece of meat. It’s possible to put a 5-6 pound piece of pork butt in an instant pot.
Just adjust the timing by adding a couple of extra minutes to the cooking time to allow for the bigger Boston butt roast.
Get the Most Flavor
It’s good to make sure that you get the most flavor possible from your pulled pork, after all, who wants to eat meat that is really tender but blah in taste?
Here is what you need to keep in mind:
The first step to flavor the instant pot BBQ pork is to make a dry rub for the meat with all of your spices and then rub it all over the pork. Then as you sear the meat, the flavors will firmly stay on the meat while it is browning.
This step is what ensures that your meat will be tasty even without any sauce mixed in.
Can You Overcook Pork in the Instant Pot?
Yes, you can certainly overcook your pulled pork in the instant pot. It’s not a miracle pot that knows when to turn off on its own. You still need to set the timer according to the recipe to make sure to achieve that tender and juicy texture.
You can always continue to cook it longer if it’s not quite done enough but you can’t go backward if you overcook it.
Testing the meat with a thermometer will ensure that it reaches the proper temperature, 190-200 degrees.
My Pork Wasn’t Cooked Enough
There’s an easy solution to this problem. If the instant pot pulled pork is not cooked thoroughly then put it back in and cook it longer.
Again, you should use a thermometer to check the proper temperature of your pulled pork which should be 190-200 degrees.
Can I Double this Recipe?
If you don’t think that a 4-5 pound roast is a big enough piece for your needs, then feel free to get a bigger piece of pork butt, maybe even double the size as long as it fits into your instant pot.
Some instant pots are larger than others and that’s what you would need for a bigger piece of Boston butt.
If you increase the size of the meat you will also logically have to increase the other ingredients to compensate. Just be sure if you add a bigger piece of meat that it does not go about the maximum fill line because you still need to have air space inside the pot.
How to Use Instant Pot BBQ Pork
Sandwich – You can eat the pulled pork on a hard roll or hamburger roll.
On your plate – As a main dish with your favorite side dishes or salads.
Pork Tacos – You can even make pork tacoswith pulled pork using all of the regular taco toppings.
What to Serve with Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork?
Load up your pulled pork sandwich with some homemade coleslaw too. We have a recipe for a great keto coleslaw on our site.
Macaroni and cheese is a favorite with pulled pork at our house.
Onion Rings. Take a look at our recipe for keto onion rings, which is one of our most popular recipes.
Make Ahead Options
You can definitely make the instant pot shredded pork ahead of time and store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. That way when you want to make something with the meat it will already be made.
Use the meat to make pork tacos, carnitas, or even pizza. Just heat it up in the microwave or in a frying pan on the stove.
How to Store
It’s easy to store leftover pulled pork. Just put it in an airtight container and then put it into the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for 2-3 days if properly stored.
How to Reheat
It is easy to reheat your instant pot pulled pork.
Microwave: Place the pulled pork in a microwave-safe plate or plastic container and heat partially covered for 1-2 minutes.
On the Stove: You could also put some instant pot pulled pork in a nonstick frying pan, and add a small amount of water or BBQ sauce, and slightly cover the pan, and heat it for 5 minutes over low-medium heat.
Can You Freeze Instapot Pulled Pork?
You will be happy to know that instant pot pulled pork leftovers are definitely something that will freeze well and it lasts for up to 2 months.
Freeze it in airtight containers in single-serve portions so that it will be easier when you have a use for it.
Diets This Recipe is Good For
Paleo – Pulled pork is a perfect fit for paleo as long as you do not add traditional store-bought BBQ sauce on it. Take a look at our recipe for keto BBQ sauce.
Gluten-free – There is no gluten in pork or in anything else in this recipe, as long as you check out the ingredients in the BBQ sauce. You can feel free to also look at making our recipe for homemade keto BBQ sauce.
Sugar-free – There is no need to add any sugar to instant pot pulled pork.
Nut-free – There are not any nuts in instant pot pulled pork.
Dairy-free – There is no need for any dairy products in our recipe for instant pot pulled pork.
Low Carb – This is one of those good recipes for low carb because it’s only 0.8 carbs per ½ cup.
Tools to Use
Instant Pot – The main tool needed to make the pork.
Tongs – Large-sized tongs for turning the meat while it is searing in the instant pot.
Small bowl – To mix your spices together.
Cutting board – To cut your pork butt on.
Knife – Used to cut the pork butt into pieces.
Forks – 2 large ones to shred the pulled pork after it’s cooked.
Other Easy Dinner Recipes
We have a few similar recipes on our web site that you will love:
This is a wonderful recipe for instant pot pulled pork. It is a favorite in our house with our friends and family, easy to make and always comes out tender and juicy. Instant pot pulled pork can be eaten with BBQ sauce or without. It can serve a crowd or just one person. Great to make a sandwich or to have on the side of one of your many favorite salads or hot side dishes.
4–5 lb pork butt
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 tspgarlic powder
2 tsponion powder
1 tspblack pepper
¼ cupapple cider vinegar
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 cupBBQ sauce (optional)
Preparing the Pork Butt:
In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and paprika.
Cut the pork butt into 4 equal-sized pieces.
Season all sides of the pork with the spices.
Cooking the Pork Butt:
Make sure the stainless steel insert is in your Instant Pot. Press the “saute” function. Wait for 2 to 3 minutes and add oil to the insert.
Add 1-2 pieces of pork at a time, and sear on all sides.
Once a piece has been seared on all sides, take it out and place it on a plate. Repeat until all the pieces are done.
Press the “cancel/off” button.
Add the water, apple cider vinegar, and liquid smoke to the IP and use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the insert.
Place all the pork back into the IP.
Close the lid, set the valve to “sealing” position, and press the “pressure cooker” button. Set the timer to 90 minutes. The IP will beep and start coming to pressure. It is already hot, so it won’t take too long.
Once the cook time has elapsed, let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes has passed, release any remaining pressure by hitting the vent knob from sealed to venting (be sure to do this in an open space and stand back from the Instant Pot.)
Carefully open the lid away from your face. Place the pork on a plate or in a bowl. Using 2 forks shred the pork, it should be really easy and will shred quickly.
Once the pork is all shredded, add your favorite BBQ sauce and serve.
0.8 NET CARBS PER ½ CUP SERVING (DOES NOT INCLUDE BBQ SAUCE)
Be sure to use a pork butt or pork shoulder, which are fattier cuts. If you use a pork loin, which is too lean, it will not come out as tender and will be too hard to shred.
If your pork butt is frozen and you forget to thaw it out, no worries because you can cook it frozen, but you will have to skip the step of searing it ahead of time. Just be sure to increase your cooking time.
Serve your pulled pork sandwich on a toasted roll, which will keep it from getting soggy.
Do not waste the liquid that is in the instant pot. Save it in a container and use it to flavor your cooked veggies for extra flavor. You can also freeze it and take it out to add to your next soup or stew.
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